'The Hobbit' In New Disaster As Tolkein Estate Sues Movie Makers

Warner BrosWarner Bros

There's trouble abrewing in Middle-Earth as 'The Hobbit' films have run into yet more legal difficulties with the family of author J.R.R. Tolkein after they sued the film's studio, Warner Bros, for $80m.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday in LA, is over alleged exploitative marketing by Warner Bros and its subsidiary New Line. The marketing refered to is what the estate of Tolkein calls "morally questionable" online, including the film's use in online gambling such as a slot machine.

The lawsuit is just the latest in a long line of calamities to have hit the production, with the film on hold until 2009 because of Tolkein's heirs suing after 'The Lord of the Rings' movies after alleging that they received only a $62,500 upfront payment instead of 7.5% of gross receipts. The movie made $6billion worldwide.

The heirs contend that the merchandising agreement they've signed with film makers only includes physical products like action-figures and not digital marketing for the move.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the lawsuit reads: "Not only does the production of gambling games patently exceed the scope of defendants' rights, but this infringing conduct has outraged Tolkien's devoted fan base, causing irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works."

The family said discussions with the producers over the row didn't solve anything and that it fears further movies will see greater online expansion, according to the report.

Although the film's New Zealand premiere is now only two weeks away it's the latest hullabaloo to surround the film, after allegations of poor animal welfare were denied by Peter Jackson and the producers earlier this week.

It has also faced an actors strike and a fire on set, leading some to speculate that the production is cursed.

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